Arts and crafts are something most of us appreciate. We love seeing the results of great talent and skill. We also love engaging in crafting activities when we can. But crafting is a little like reading. Despite knowing that most of the happiest, wisest, healthiest people in the world craft, most people seem to avoid it.
It’s quite peculiar how we do this, because, however you look at it, crafting is innately human. From our earliest days, even if toys and paints aren’t available, we take mud and sand and sticks and stones and mash things together to make murals, sculptures and decorations. We are drawn to paint and stickers and glue. We make shiny, bright, ornamented versions of everyday items. In short, we are born with a desire to create. Which makes a lot of sense, really. A human is born a naked ape-grub without any sharp teeth or fangs, without the ability to even stand. We grow into gangly, nude primates that are slow, clumsy and weak compared to most of our would-be predators and prey. So crafting is one of our ways of surviving. By tinkering about with everything we are able to make houses, fire, weapons, traps, cooking utensils and preservation techniques. Crafting made the arrow, the tree-house, the fire pit and fermentation. It’s an instinctive drive.
And another unique trait of humans is that we use this tinkering to develop culture. At some point a good, strong arrowhead that felled five bison stops just being a good arrowhead and starts being a lucky arrowhead. At some point Mum’s copper pot stops being a cooking utensil and becomes an heirloom. The more we tinker, the more we develop, the more meaning we attach to things, until we start making this for meaning’s own sake. We find blue peaceful, so we seek out blue pigments. We like the little figures on Uncle’s bow, so we make our own figurines. We go from utilitarian, to utilitarian and meaningful, to purely meaningful.
And gradually these meanings form a culture. If women of a certain tribe wear neck-braces in solidarity with women who need them, women in the next tribe will be confused, because they will either not need braces or view them as simple medical treatment. If hunters of a certain tribe paint themselves blue to connect with the Gods, hunters from another tribe may see the blue as aggression or even aspiration to godhood. By creating a sort of secret language of meaning, we exclude others from out culture and make it ours. We gain solidarity.
Which is where we start losing our desire to craft in the modern world. We live in a world where we no longer need to craft or be inventive. Not only are we avid, hungry consumers, we seem to be trying to become culturally stagnant, merely observing past culture and global cultures and not engaging in any cultural or tribal behaviours of our own.
But crafting is still good for us. The pull is still there, even when you sit down a sixty year old office worker with finger paints. How many people do you know who would never doodle, paint, sculpt, write, sing, dance, build, shape, collage, etc if they could? If you sat a group of adults down in an arts and crafts room and told them to entertain themselves, how many would find nothing to do? We still love it and want to do it. It’s only natural to us.
Crafting is still one of the best ways of dealing with mental and personality disorders, as well as with non-clinical stress, depression, anxiety, fear or boredom. It evens us out and leaves us feeling soothed and satisfied by the end. And to boot, it shows its own fruits. When you work crunching numbers, or teaching a lesson a week, or cleaning machinery, it’s hard to see your own work in the finished product. But when you take your vision and slowly shape it into something, you are present in the end result. And that reward is one of the richest you can experience.
Humans really are meant to craft and create. And we should put more effort into doing some crafting daily.
What do you enjoy crafting? Do you craft as much as you would like? Are there any crafts you would like to learn?
Check out my Pinterest board of things to craft or that I have crafted.
TTFN and Happy Hunting!